Balanced and Restorative Juvenile Justice
"Balanced and Restorative Justice is not a new set of programs or short–term projects. It is a new way of thinking about crime, community, and working together for the future. Balanced and Restorative Justice requires vision, creativity, and shared leadership on the part of the justice system, victims, offenders and the community."
- Susan Sharpe, Author, Restorative Justice: a Vision for Healing and Change
Restorative Justice: A Vision for Healing and Change
The foundation of the Clark County Balanced & Restorative Juvenile Justice model is the Juvenile Court’s commitment to work restoratively in all of its policies and practices. This commitment requires priorities that balance Community Safety, Accountability, and Competency Development, wherein the response to victims, the community, and offenders receive balanced attention. All three gain tangible benefits from their interactions with the juvenile justice system:
- Victims are acknowledged as having been harmed and receive meaningful assistance in addressing those harms.
- Victims are given the opportunity to have input and appropriate participation in the resolution of the crime committed against them.
- The community is embraced as an essential partner in responding effectively to crime, and given opportunities to actively use its resources to hold offenders accountable, to meet the needs of victims and to integrate offenders into the community as positive, productive citizens.
- Offenders are held accountable for their crimes in ways that are meaningful to their victims and their community, and that provide the offenders with the opportunity to change and grow as healthy, positive community members.
The Balanced Approach:
Crime hurts individuals and the community. It creates an obligation on the part of the offender to make amends to those harmed. The offender must meaningfully address this obligation through personal, restorative actions. As an agent of the community, the juvenile justice system should ensure its resources are being directed toward holding juvenile offenders accountable for their crimes and the resulting harms. It should provide opportunities for offenders to make amends and to repair the harm in ways that are meaningful to those impacted by the crime. Victims and the community should have opportunities to be active participants in determining what creates meaningful accountability for a specific offense.
Accountability also involves the offender taking steps toward becoming a positive citizen. The community must play an active role in assisting this growth by providing opportunities for the integration of offenders into the fabric of the community as offenders take responsibility for their actions and seek to make amends.
Citizens have a right to live in a safe and healthy community and must be protected during the time an offender is under juvenile justice supervision. To ensure this right in both the short and long term the community, through its juvenile justice system, must provide for a range of interventions appropriate to the varying risks presented by individual offenders. These interventions must focus on both appropriate responses to the present offense and to moving the youth toward healthy, pro-social community membership. Community safety cannot be achieved without meaningful accountability for the harms already caused and the transformation of criminal thinking and behavior for the prevention of future harms.
This requires ensuring that offenders in the community are carefully supervised by justice system staff and by a range of community "guardians", the development and implementation of a range of supervision and sanctions options and an array of meaningful responses to violations and incentives for progress. It also requires ensuring there are means by which young people can be encouraged and supported in the development of pro-social attitudes and behaviors that lead to positive, contributing membership in the community.
Juvenile offenders should leave the justice system more capable of being positive, contributing members of the community than when they entered the system. Rather than simply receiving treatment and services aimed at suppressing problem behavior, offenders should make measurable improvements in their ability to function as productive, responsible citizens. One characteristic of a responsible citizen is the ability to take responsibility for their own actions and being willing to be accountable for the impacts of their decisions.
In order to accomplish this objective which has value for the offender, the community and the victims of crime, juvenile offenders should gain in positive ways from their contact with the juvenile justice system. The work of the juvenile system should represent a sound investment in community's future. To ensure the safe and healthy community we desire, juvenile offenders and their families must have access to a wide range of educational, skill building, treatment, and intervention resources that are appropriate and responsive to their interests and needs, as well as those of the community.